SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr


Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

This week the eyes of the business world were firmly focused on Leinster House and the Finance Minister’s announcement of Budget 2018.

There were very few surprises in the package and for Bobby, the pantomime surrounding the announcement was “much ado about nothing.”

“The whole game that is played - throwing a fiver here and €100 there; I think people are smarter than that,” he says.

“I just think everybody is in this game of 'The Budget' and talking stuff up and talking stuff down.

"And when it is a kind of a whitewash budget with a bit of something for everybody – it makes it all the more facile to be honest with you.”

Arguably the most contentious measure in the package was an increase in Commercial Stamp Duty from 2% to 6% - a move that left many businesses a little wrong-footed.

We are an SME buying our own office. The increase in Commercial Stamp Duty has just blown a hole in our budget. It is bigger and more detrimental than Brexit.

The change came into effect at midnight on Tuesday, meaning that anyone buying a business for €500,000 will now owe €30,000 to the exchequer – up from the previous rate of €10,000.

Bobby’s warning to any SME is that where property is not the focus of your business – you should think twice about entering the market.

“While it seems like the logical thing to do, a lot of businesses were really, really caught in the last crash,” he says.

“It is always nice and it does seem logical” to own your own office, but tying up hard cash in the property market is a dangerous game – unless you are certain you have found the perfect place.

Our next listener has developed lower back problems after working in an office for the past year. The doctor has recommended a special ergonomic office chair for work – but they are “really expensive.”

A friend of mine told me it is the employer’s responsibility to buy one for me - but when I asked my boss, they said I will have to buy it myself.

At the end of the day the human body was not designed to spend long hours in an “L” shape and for Bobby, this employer's attitude is “not very smart.”

“For every day this guy takes out sick because of a bad back it is going to cost the employer,” he says. “So I would be weighing that up against the cost of whatever this chair would be.”

“I think this seems unreasonable from the employer.

“You would have thought that this would be a good gesture [...] as well as a financial investment to make sure that the guy isn’t in pain and that he can do his work properly.”

I am finding the atmosphere in a busy legal office really stressful. Everyone wants stuff yesterday and the people – especially the partners – are really rude. I am recently a qualified solicitor and I have decided that this is not what I signed up for. Should I leave? Or is this the norm? Jane in Roscrea.

“I feel sorry for Jane here,” says Bobby. “There are two questions - is she in the wrong job or is she in the wrong profession?”

“There is no point being a solicitor if you are miserable.

“Try and take a holiday; look for other opportunities; move job and try a different office.”

If Jane feels undervalued a change of scene could make all the difference - if she is still unhappy after jumping ship however, it may be time to consider changing careers.

“Don’t rush into it,” says Bobby. “Take your time; plan this; ease yourself into it and you will make the right decision.”

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to [email protected]

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